Rome in a Day | Part 1 Travel diary

This was the start of a 3-week holiday in June/July. It was my last real holiday before I move back to Perth in September. The realization of this is slowly creeping in as the holiday gets closer. I’m so excited to spend the summer in Europe, but the thought that next winter I cant go to Switzerland for a ski trip is pretty tragic. To be fair, next winter in Europe will be my summer in Australia, so I get to a double summer. Also pretty great. Anyway, what I am saying is that its bitter sweet. I am so happy to come home to my boyfriend and family and friends, but so sad to leave behind the Europe travels and the new friends I have made.

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So this holiday starts in Rome, Isaac is coming straight up from Perth to Rome, so we will meet in the airport. Kinda romantic right? Meet you in Rome, that’s what I thought. Until staff travel had a different idea and I was stuck in Heathrow airport for 8 hours trying to leave the country. I was to fly with BA, and it seemed that every BA employee was trying to get to Rome, which means they have priority over me as I work for Qantas. So 5th flight lucky and I was finally on my way, my romantic ideas of meeting Isaac in the airport shattered. He made his way to our accommodation, and I was to meet him there. We stayed at Roma Camping Village, a common stop for contiki travelers. It was a great place to stay with a really nice atmosphere and good, cheap facilities, but it was a little out of the city. The first night we caught up and had cheap pizza and beer at the camping grounds.

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19-06-2016-10.25.09.jpg.jpegThe next day was our only full day in Rome, as we were out early next morning for Sorrento. We caught a bus into the city, and started our day at the Vatican. What we didn’t realize is that the only day we had in Rome was a Sunday, so the museum was closed the whole day. We were still able to go into the city, but we also found that we were a few hours too early for the pope’s speech, so we didn’t even get to see that. However the city was fantastic to see, and as we come in jeans (making sure our knees and shoulders were covered) we were sweating profusely by the time we lined up and were able to enter, but this didn’t deter from it at all. We walked into the city, past the castel san tangelo, up to piazza del popolo, and down to trevi fountain. Upon recommendation we went to gelato di san crispino, which was worth a trip. We made our way to the pantheon, took at look at the world’s largest freestanding dome, and had a pizza lunch in the square.

We made our way to the coliseum and joined the massive queues to see the inside. As it turned out it didn’t take too long to get through the queue so we didn’t mind so much. It was awe inspiring to be at this iconic location, to get a glimpse into the past. By this time our feet were aching from all the walking, and we stumbled and complained our way across the river Tiber. As walked along through all the pop up markets and bars, it had a lovely atmosphere. Isaac and I made our way close to badilica di santa maria in trastevere for a drink. There were many bars an restaurants in the area, it was really lovely, and we went to ai marmi for pizza, again by recommendation from some Italian friends. It seemed to be a popular spot for the locals and the restaurant was heaving, despite there being a pizzeria next door which looked quite quiet. We were a bit stuck of how to get back to our accommodation from here, and it has been a long day, so we got an uber to pick us up. On the drive home we caught a glimpse of Rome from above during sunset, and it was truly magical.

19-06-2016-01.57.56.jpg.jpegIt was time to move on, and we organized a train from Rome to Naples the next morning. From Naples we went to the port and took a ferry to Sorrento, the whole process taking about 4 hours and onto part 2 of our summer adventure.

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Skiing Extraordinaire | French/Swiss Travel diary

This trip was when Isaac was up in London for the first time, January 2015. As I had just started working up in the UK I was only able to get a week off, but it was well spent. The first few days we dedicated to Paris. We got on the Eurostar from London so it was a nice easy trip up. We had booked our selves a cheap hotel not far from Gare de Lest so we didn’t have far to go once we got off the train. It was an okay area to stay, but as I said on my previous post about Paris I really enjoyed staying around Bastille it was much nicer with more to do in the area. The few days that we had here we tried to make our way through the Louvre, although I doubt we even made it through a quarter of it. It was really busy inside, and this was in January so definitely not a peek season. I can imagine that it would be really busy during the summer time. We made our way through the catacombs (taking so many photos in the hopes of getting a gost on camera) and one night we went to go and see the Crazy Horse show, which we opted for instead of the Moulin Rouge as it was quite a bit cheaper, and it still made for a great night out. After wards we went up the Eifel tower, joining the tourists with our selfies, and had a nice night strolling around the area. On one of the other nights we went to Sacre-Coeur to get a good View of Paris. It would have been a nice place to have a picnic.

 

 

We went to Geneva by train, about 4 hours long. My cousin Jane lives here, so we were coming to visit for the weekend. And she took us around and did some amazing things. She drove us about an hour out of Geneva and took us to a chocolate factory and afterwards to an out door spa overlooking the snow covered mountains. It was such an amazing view. The next day we drove up to the French Alps where Jane taught me to ski for the first time. This was a completely daunting experience, but I fell in love. It was my first time in snow, which was amazing enough and the fun of skiing added a whole new dimension. The snow was thick and heavy, making it difficult to see and a dangerous drive back down the mountain at the end of the day. That night we spent getting fondue and going to a whiskey bar, the perfect after-skiing feast for our last night in Geneva! Before we flew out the next day, Jane took us around the lake in Geneva, but that was all we had time to do before heading off. We were able to do amazing things based out of Geneva, it was definitely a weekend to remember.

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Fire and Ice | Iceland Travel Diary

I am so excited to write about this one and tell you all about it. I absolutely love this country. If I could I would live here and work as a tour guide taking people out camping on glaciers or scuba diving between tectonic plates in freezing glacial waters then I would. This is my favorite country in Europe to date, and if there wasn’t so much that I hadn’t seen of Europe then I would be spending the rest of my time in London holidaying back to Iceland. There is always that temptation when you find a place you love to just keep returning. However if I did that I doubt I would ever have gone to Iceland, I would have just kept going back to dive in Thailand’s tropical waters (my first love).

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So! We had week to travel. I actually had 2 weeks off, but we found that we just didn’t have the money to extend this trip. Instead Isaac and I spent Christmas and new years (on days off, which I was so lucky to get) in London with my flight attendant family, and my leave started on the 4th of January. Packing was a challenge. We didnt really have any ski gear which would have been perfect, so instead we layered! A lot. On a normal day we wore thermals with jeans over the top, thermal top, long sleave top, jumper or thin weather proof jacket with the biggest warmest jackets we had on top. A scarf and beany, and ski gloves or I had to do double layered gloves as i had no ski gloves. Thermal socks and hiking boots to top it off.

 

We went full fare with wow air, Iceland’s budget carrier. The entire flight we were looking out the window just hoping to get a glimpse of the northern lights from the air, with no such luck. We flew out of Gatwick, and obviously I had forgotten my vow to never fly out of there again. Gatwick is a nightmare to get to from where I live in west London and with all the train fares we may as well have just spent a bit extra to fly out of Heathrow with all the extra fees we ended up having to pay. Moving on, we arrived into Keflavik airport around 11pm. From there they have a shuttle bus that goes straight into Reykjavik, about a 40 min ride where they also have a hotel transfer option. This is about the only way to get to Reykjavik and we had pre booked tickets, but I’m not sure if that was necessary. It was really easy and there were busses every 20 mins or so. We got a transfer to a hotel, which was a street away from our airbnb. Our host left out a key for us and we found it pretty easy to get to. We were staying close to cabin hotel, near the water and about a 30 min walk into the city center. While for us this worked quite well, but it would have been nice to have been a bit closer around downtown. The walking into the city was a bit challenging due to the snow and ice, and its also an extremely windy country. Extremely cold in January, even though the weather reports said it was about -1 to 4 degrees. We didn’t think it would be so bad. So we arrived late at night and crawled straight into bed for a full day and early start the next day.

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Reykjavic City
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Hallgrimskirkja
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soup bread bowl:)

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Black and Blue! We very nearly turned black and blue ourselves. This tour picked us up around 9 am, in the pitch dark. There were about 6 other people on this tour, so they did the rounds and picked everyone up from where they were staying. We started to drive out to the lava caves (the ‘black’ part of the tour) and arrived around 11am, just when the sun was starting to rise and we were able to see our first glimpse of Iceland in the daylight. We were surrounded by snow and mountains, and were treated to a spectacular sunrise with clear skies. We put our hard hats on and chains to go over our hiking boots provided by the tour company (not the boots) and crawled our selves into the cave through a small opening. We stayed in the cave for about 40 minutes to an hour. They took us through as deep as we could go, and finally told us to sit down and turn off our lights. For minutes we sat in the darkness listening to the drips of the cave. It was completely pitch black, with no chance of seeing your hand if it was right in front of your eyes. It was a completely surreal experience. So for a few minutes we sat in silence and enjoyed this experience before turning our lights back on to start making our way out again. By the time we surfaced the sun was completely risen, although it was still sitting extremely close to the horizon.

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caving ready
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1oam sunrise

From here we jumped back into the car and took us between the American and European tectonic plates to go snorkeling in the glacial waters at Pingvellir national park. This was freezing! This was the ‘blue’ part of the tour. We spend half an hour or so getting prepared and into our dry suits. Isaac took charge of the camera at this point thank goodness, as I don’t think I would have been able to do anything with my hands. So we jumped in and drifted our way around. While we felt the cold on our face and hands (we were wearing wetsuit hoods and gloves) I didn’t find it too bad for the first 5 to 10 minutes. But before long my dry suite leaked and the uncontrollable shaking started with pains jolting up our hand and arms. The temperature of the water here stays the same all year round, so unfortunately going in summer wouldn’t have been any better, although you might have had the chance to thaw out after you got out. Despite this, the fresh water was incredibly clear and it was an absolutely fantastic experience. They also offer scuba diving here, but as Isaac isn’t a certified diver we opted for the snorkeling. After doing the snorkeling I’m not sure that I missed out at all by not doing the diving, the water was so clear you could see as far as there was to see, and the diving was much more expensive. Although as I haven’t done the diving I cant really compare it. So our lips and hands were swollen and blue with some bruising on our fingers, and I was quite eager to hop out. Isaac stayed a bit longer and had a swim around and did a little filming with our camera. We got back into our dry gear, although as you wear your thermals in the water under your dry suit and mine had leaked, I was still a bit wet and chilly. We tried to rub some feeling back into our hands as we went for a bit of a walk around the national park and enjoyed the 3pm sunset before being taken back to Reykjavik. My friend Hannah arrived late this night to spend the next couple of days with us!

 

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walk to entry point

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Pingvellir national park

 

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Pingvillir national park
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Freezing in Pingvillir national park
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Defrosting in Pingvillir national park

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The next day we had a bit of a sleep in and woke up with the sunrise. We had a bit of a walk around Reykjavik and checked out some of the sites and had a beautiful bread bowl full of soup, and then headed back to our apartment to get ready for the northern lights tour. We rugged ourselves up in about 6 layers of clothes before heading out. We chose to do the cheapest tour available, where they take you out on a big bus full of 50 people, take you away from the city lights and park up for the night while we wait and see if anything will happen. Most other more personal tours take you chasing the northern lights in jeeps, where as we just had to wait and see if we got lucky. And, we certainly did get lucky. When we had just arrived we could see a faint green glow that we were wondering if our eyes wee just tricking us. But after about 30 minutes the sky started to get more active, and it kept us out there for a few hours. We took along a make shift tripod out of paper cups that Isaac made, that was take by the wind on first opportunity. So while we didn’t get any amazing shots, we still tried our very hardest. All credit to Isaac.

We had one more full day with Hannah, and we jumped on the golden circle tour. At first I wasn’t to sure about this, it seemed a bit generic and I wanted to be out being an adventurer and a mountain climber. But it was one of the cheaper tours available and I read some good reviews. I was not disappointed, this was definitely worth doing. So they took us to the geysir hot springs where we spent about an hour. We had a great time here walking around the geysir’s and taking photos, and just enjoying the scenery. They then took us onto Gullfoss waterfall. It was starting to get incredibly windy now and us and everyone else were getting pushed across the ice. This was a fantastic sight to see, a real treat. We then found ourselves heading back to Pingvellir national park, where the first government was held. We walked a different way this time and were able to show Hannah where we had been snorkeling the day before. This was a fantastic day and I would have been sad to miss out on it. That night we tried to have a nice night in and buy some alcohol, but we couldn’t find any near by, as they don’t sell it in the supermarkets there. So we gave up and had an early night, and Hannah left early the next morning.

 

So it was back to just Isaac and I, and we didn’t have anything planned today. So we walked around Reykjavik and stopped for a few drinks. We were told absolutely do not miss this hotdog stand Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, by numerous people, so we had to go and see what they were talking about. Just so you know, it was terrible.

 

The next day we were all set up to join a whale watching tour. I was extremely excited about this as was very keen to see some orcas, however all we saw was a few dolphins and the followed them around for a good half an hour. I thought maybe winter wasn’t the best time to spot whales but there didn’t seem to be a particular season for the whale watching tours. So, we headed back to the city and sat at a wine bar for a few hours and grabbed some dinner. It was a very trendy city to be out in, with lots of nice places to hangout and enjoy a night out.

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For our last day in Iceland we had planned a glacier hike which included ice pick climbing. Unfortunately this was cancelled due to the weather. So we got a refund and instead headed by bus to Mosfellsbaer, the mountains which you could see from Reykjavik city. I would not recommend taking public transport, we found out later that the busses only ran once every hour or two, and was nearly impossible to find a timetable. We were trying to reach the hiking center to get some information and use as our starting point, which required us to take 2 busses, but our second bus never came so we gave up on that. Instead we just went for a walk for a few hours from where ever the first bus dropped us off, I couldn’t even tell you where that was. However it was still a beautiful walk and we were surrounded by lovely scenery.

 

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view from Reyjavic of mountains

We flew home the next day on staff travel with British airways. We were a bit nervous as there was only one flight a day that we could get on with staff travel, but we didn’t have a problem (almost a shame, would have been good to have spent some extra time).

Next post: Edinbough